Your Environment Under SurveillanceAVTECH's Monitoring Products Help You Keep An Eye On Heat, Humidity & More
Written By Holly Dolezalek - Processor Vol.31 Issue 13
In the environmental-monitoring realm, AVTECH Software aims to be a company that earns brand loyalty by consistently bringing the most innovative products to the marketplace. In a crowded segment like environmental monitoring, that's not easy to do.
However, Michael Sigourney, president of AVTECH (401.847.6700; www.AVTECH.com) believes that the company's software background gives it a natural edge in constantly creating new features to add to existing products. That drive for innovation is an omnipresent theme for Sigourney, and everything from employees to the physical surroundings is calculated to stimulate that inventor's ethic. Even the company's new headquarters in Warren, R.I., a 68,000-square-foot mill, is the kind of old space that artists and entrepreneurs frequently reinvent in the name of creativity.
With fewer than 100 employees, the privately held company isn't large, but its goal is to be a $25 million company in the next few years. Sigourney and his employees are laying the groundwork for that goal now, both in the new headquarters in Warren and in everything from how the company sells to what it sells.
AVTECH provides small devices, roughly the size of a BlackBerry, that monitor temperature, humidity, power and any other condition for which there's a dry-contact sensor available. The devices are manufactured partially in facilities in New Hampshire, Massachusetts and Rhode Island and partially overseas in India and China. "We manufacture the expensive parts, like the circuit boards, here in the U.S. and the boxes and sensors in India and our new facility in China," Sigourney says. "That means that we can ship those boxes here by boat and pay 20 to 30 cents on the dollar for them so that we can pass those savings on to our customers." The strategy lets AVTECH order those chips and circuit boards as its customers need them and keep its inventory costs low, as well. It also means that rather than having to put an engineer on a plane to India or China in the event of a manufacturing problem, AVTECH can send one by car and start working on the problem in 90 minutes instead of two days.
AVTECH sells 15 models of its environmental monitors in three lines: the Room Alert, the Signal Tower, and the TemPageR lines. The TemPageR is the simplest line; both the standard model and the rack model monitor temperature in computer rooms and send alerts to users via email, email-to-SMS, SNMP and other methods on their computers, mobile phones, smartphones, pagers or PDAs.
The Room Alert line has more ports for factors other than temperature, such as humidity and power. It also has standard and rack models, and the more advanced models offer wireless capability so that the user can avoid sensor cables.
The Signal Tower models monitor similar conditions to the Room Alerts, but in addition to the alerting via PCs or PDAs, the Signal Towers have audio and visual alerts in the form of lights and single-tone intermittent alarms.
AVTECH also sells sensors, security cameras, mounting equipment and other related accessories. All devices include its Device ManageR software, which allows users to install, manage, log and graph the data the environmental monitors collect. More complex models have PageR Unlimited Enterprise software, which collects, filters and displays status and event information for server, TCP/IP, SNMP and other devices on the network.
AVTECH sells a lot of its TemPageR devices to the small and medium-sized market. The company has seen a lot of growth over the past four years. "We've grown 20 to 30% each month over the same month in the previous year," Sigourney says. But that same market can be a challenge at times, Sigourney explains. "Data centers often aren't planned at that size of company," he says. "Many of them are just a safe room with consistent power, and our challenge is to make these companies understand that our products offer value to them. These are companies that don't have a lot of extra dollars floating around, and we're often competing, not with other companies that have the same products, but with the customer's need to spend money on other equipment, like the very server our device would help them monitor." Sigourney says that at one time, possibly as much as two-thirds of AVTECH's sales came within 30 days of a disaster.
AVTECH's most consistent customers are companies with data centers or computer rooms, and that's the most common use for its products. About 70% of AVTECH's sales come from the North American market, primarily the United States and Canada, and the remaining 30% come from overseas business. The company's strongest overseas markets are the United Kingdom and Africa, but it's seeing growth in the South American and Pacific Rim regions, as well. That's a big change from 10 years ago, when nearly all of its business was from North America.
The company's salespeople account for about half of all sales, while another 25% comes from online ordering and the remainder from its reseller network. That network of 2,600 resellers will be a significant area of growth, Sigourney says. Some of the space in the new headquarters will be dedicated to a training center for resellers. "That's an untapped market for us that we will be giving more resources to," he says. "We're getting a lot of interest from potential resellers - we've signed up 2,000 in the last 18 months-because we're very aggressive in sharing revenue with our resellers."
As always, AVTECH continues to add new features to its devices, and soon it will be able to offer devices that can turn equipment on or off remotely. "Customers will be able to be in one part of the world and turn on a sump pump or the AC in another," Sigourney says. "There will also be an auto-script in the hardware so that the user can shut off the water if there's a main leak in the building."
Unlike the rest of the economy, where jobs are vanishing in bulk, AVTECH has hired four people since October 2008 and plans to add another 12 by the end of this year. But the company will remain small even as its business gets bigger. "We don't want to be huge in our number of people because we want to stay connected to our customers and stay service-focused," Sigourney says.